Grannies Are Good
3:00 am on a Saturday morning—Granny in her night-clothes, repeats a welcoming ritual for our family. We’ve just arrived from Indiana to spend the weekend or a holiday. She and Grandpa knew we were coming.
Granny had prepared for our arrival with her usual comfort feast. She knew we’d be famished by the time we stepped through her door. To stave off those awkward growling sounds that would surely keep everyone awake for the rest of the night, she loaded the groaning board with a southern breakfast. It doesn’t seem to matter to her or Grandpa that by the time we finish eating, and unwind enough to go to sleep, they will be preparing for their farm day.
My brother and I sit at that big farm kitchen table, eyeing the platters, bowls, plates, and jars that she arranges down the center of the space. Medium platter supports three different types of fried eggs: hard, soft, and scrambled.
Her infamous small square biscuit pan sits on a handmade potholder near the homemade jams, jellies, and syrup for the golden brown pancakes hoarding their own personal bowl. Sausage patties, country ham, and leftovers from last night’s fried chicken hold court on a large platter on Dad’s end of the table.
Fresh coffee perfumes the room, aided by fresh milk, and rounds out the “impromptu” meal, along with real farm cream to use on cold cereal.
Yep, we’re down home. An hour later, family talk has dwindled enough to expose sleepy eyes and yawns. Bedtime has come at last.
If we’d come during the winter, those upstairs beds would act as ice-cube trays waiting to be filled. The upstairs of that house had no heat of its own. Heck, the down stairs only had Warm-Morning stoves that could take wood or coal. Finances determined which fuel was used.
Mom and I would take one bed and Dad, with brother, would get the other one. There were so many of Granny’s homemade quilts on the beds that Mom would have to hold up the covers so that I could position myself. Once I was comfortable, she’d lower the bedclothes.
I had to be very certain of comfort in that position, because once those quilts lowered, I wasn’t strong enough to shift my position under them. They were heavy and cold upon first entry to the bed. As a rule, I would try to put my back to my mom’s. Her body heat would keep me from becoming an ice-cube until my own body heat took care of warming my space. Sleep was the only refuge until real heat came along.
In the summer, only those floor to ceiling windows gave relief from the sweltering upstairs heat. No quilts were required for that season. The fear then was melting into the feather beds.
Dawn and downstairs activity led to anxious dreams and disrupted, food-induced sleep. Grandpa had milking to do. Granny had to get lunch on the stove so that she could take a bit of socializing time once all the kin arrived for that meal. These things didn’t take care of themselves.
Throughout our visit, for however long it lasted, that lady of the South, cared for the feeding and comfort of her quests. She prided herself in always having enough for anyone who happened to drop by on any given day. No one left he home without taking a meal with them.
A weekend lunch would supply victuals for a minimum of sixteen to twenty people, depending on family schedules and time of year. If it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, the number expanded to an average of sixty people. On those occasions I would meet relatives that I never saw any other time in my life.
Granny’s house bulged with people during many of our visits. In summer we’d spill out onto the lawns, front lawn for children’s play, and backyard for making ice cream to go with the many cakes and pies awaiting their début from Granny’s kitchen.
My three aunts would pitch in with their own contributions to the celebration. Fourth of July was always a winner around there. We could count on each of three or four ice cream freezers having a separate flavor. Fruit in season took on a special meaning in that household, although banana was always made for Dad.
As I aged and Granny slowed down, other things impressed themselves on my memories of her. Her house had an entirely different fragrance than my other grandmother’s. The sounds that it made in the night didn’t have the same meanings as those of our house. It didn’t matter where she was living. She placed her stamp on it, simply by being there.
Her laughter graced many places. Her opinions were never hidden from public view. And her love showed in each small service or consideration she provided those for whom she cared.
These are some of the things that fluttered through my mind as I held her in my arms in her last minutes in this world. I was allowed that privilege, the meaning of which I will take with me always.
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